Spike Lee receives American Cinematheque award and promises to continue – Deadline

Spike Lee was honored by his peers and associates on Thursday as he became the 34th recipient of the American Cinematheque Award, given to a filmmaker or star who has achieved and continues to achieve great success in their career.

The honor, typically presented at a glitzy tribute dinner, must have gone virtual this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but that didn’t stop Lee’s wide range of admirers and colleagues from participating. via Zoom and other shiny and beautifully produced means. put together show that went off without a hitch tonight. Hosted by Jodie Foster, who previously performed with Denzel Washington in 2006 Inside man – Lee recalled him tonight as one of his personal favorites – the tribute included an innovative feature showing virtual conversations between pairs of various past artists from all fields who have worked with Lee, focusing on a film. specific to which they participated. It was a good way to get to the essence of what makes Lee such a revered filmmaker by listening to specific stories about how he creates his particular brand of cinematic magic.

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American Cinematheque

Barry Alexander Brown (Malcolm X) and Sam Pollard (Jungle fever) shared fascinating information about their time with Lee in the editing room, while Robi Reed (Clockers) and Kim Coleman (BlacKkKlansman) discussed the casting process for their films, a particular clue to actors watching how casting directors can get Lee’s attention for talent they deem worthy. Ernest Dickersen, who attended NYU Film School with Lee, spoke about cinematography on Mo ‘Better Blues with Ellen Kuras, who shared her stories behind the camera of Lee’s Emmy-winning documentary 4 little girls. Jon Kilik and Monty Ross, both producers of Lee’s third founding film, 1989 Do the right thing, The stories exchanged about making the hard work of getting this movie made it the way Lee envisioned it.

Ruth E. Carter, costume designer Bamboo, Lee Wynn Thomas’ first production designer told (She must have it) about a phone call she got from the director who started out saying “I’m the man of your dreams”, to which she replied: “Denzel? ” Veteran actors Angela Bassett and Delroy Lindo shared anecdotes about their respective experiences with Lee on Chi-raq and Crooklyn (see the subsequent exchange in the video below).

Foster, an endearing host and former American Cinematheque winner herself, conducted an interview with Lee that was sprinkled throughout the quick two-hour show which was also filled with perfectly chosen clips of what everything the world was talking.

Basically, Lee’s mantra is to never slow down, as he explained to Foster.

“You have to work at your trade, whatever it is – you have to work, you have to work, you have to work,” the 63-year-old told her. “If you like what you do you can delay daddy time so I have more joints make. ..At the very beginning, I wanted to build a body of work because I noticed that the artists I admired continued to build their work. It wasn’t just a one-off thing. Over the years, they continued to work on their craft. For me, that was the model.

Warner Bros.

During Foster’s solicitation, Lees discussed the challenges of specific films. About Malcolm X he said that apart from his first, She must have it, it was the hardest movie he had ever had to make. “You could also say that it was the most important film and the film that had the most weight,” he added. Of Clockers he had a specific goal in mind noting that “back then there was an abundance of these urban hip hop movies, in my opinion glorifying drug trafficking and all that stuff. I wanted this movie to be the opposite side of that.

Reissue of the 30th anniversary of Do the Right Thing
Universal images

Lee also avoided any concerns about the reviews he and his films had received over the years, saying he learned early on in NYU that all of this goes with real-world territory and that it can actually be valuable. . He also indicated that he was not comfortable directing actors until he got to Do the right thing, and recounts the first meetings with Laurence Fishburne which made him clear about the needs of the actors.

And of course every filmmaker remembers those movies that just didn’t succeed with audiences and / or critics, and Lee is no different, as he points out.

“A lot of my films haven’t been in contact with audiences right away. Exhibit A: Bamboozled. Exhibit B: 25th hour, “he said.” But that’s the great thing about DVDs, Blu-rays. Sooner or later people will catch up with it. Sometimes, for some reason, it just doesn’t. not clicked on exit, but I still believe good things will find an audience sooner or later. “

American Cinematheque

The importance of mentoring and education came to light when he and Foster were joined later in the event by director Ryan Coogler, with Lee, a professor at New York University, noting that teaching took place. takes place in his family as his mother and grandmother also taught. He said he had been teaching for about 16 years and film school had a huge impact on him, and illuminated themes in some of his films. “If you are a teacher and you do not learn from your students, you are do not a teacher, ”he said of what he personally gets by giving back in this way.

Chadwick Boseman in 'Da 5 Bloods'
Chadwick Boseman in “Da 5 Bloods”

With Coogler, who directed the late Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther, Lee especially wanted to pay his own homage to his Da 5 bloods star. “The character of Da 5 bloods is so huge – you can’t kick just anyone, ”Lee said of Boseman’s section leader. “He is described as mythical. You’re talking about a guy who played Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, Black Panther.

Coogler said that other than writing something shortly after hearing about Boseman’s death last summer, he had not spoken publicly about it. “I love him and miss him,” he said with emotion. “He was only with us for a limited time, but he gave us so much. He gave us an endless amount of gifts at this time.

After actress Rosie Perez opens up about the real impact of Lee’s cinematic contributions, the rest of the key cast of Da 5 bloods collectively reunited via Zoom to present the award to their director and share their own memories of meeting and working with Lee. Lindo was joined by Isiah Whitlock Jr, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis and Jonathan Majors, the latter’s words leading directly to the presentation.

“There are filmmakers who create entertainment for the world. and there are those who create comments for our world. Personally, I don’t know another person who creates so naturally and so honestly both time and time again, ”he said. “Hopefully all artistic artists grow in their craft, Spike, but you started with compassion, courage and truth. Vision fierce before anyone knows who you are, and the passion before anyone knows you are. I know on the pitch side at the Knicks game and spending time with you, and having a beer with you in Thailand, you don’t speak through your art, you speak through your humanity.

Lee, already heard throughout the show, ended it all with a few final words: “I want to thank everyone who has worked in front of and behind the camera with me over my four decades. You know I love you and thank you for your support over the years, and let’s move on.

Here is the exchange between Bassett and Lindo:

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